CD Design Bio

This CD/LP label is one of my favorite designs that I have created. Not only do I love how it turned out but this was a piece from my first album packaging project which was also the first time my design work went international on such a large scale.

It’s design features a circular tessellation of four interlocking peach panthers to create an 80s style medallion-like symbol. I created this with the idea that CDs and records are circles with no top or bottom so they are hardly ever viewed “upright”. I wanted to design a label so no matter what way you look at it it will always be viewed the same. The four panther’s tails meeting in the center also provide some entertainment by creating a cool hypnotic spiral effect when playing on a turntable.

What turned you on to become a graphic designer?

I was definitely born with a knack for design – it just took me a long time to figure it out. Growing up I was always naturally artistic and good at drawing, but never considered graphic design as a potential career path because I just simply did not know what it was. As far back as I can remember, I recall having an odd captivation with logos, type, VHS covers, billboards, packaging, and beyond. But I never knew exactly what I found so alluring about these things. I grew up in a very small town in central Illinois where art wasn’t given much attention and design jobs didn’t exist. When teachers, friends and family noticed my artistic talent, it was always suggested that I should become an artist one day selling my paintings or illustrating comics strips. Although they were all great suggestions, none of those careers ever enticed me. Since I never received a good explanation of what graphic design was, my idea of art was very narrow and any possibility of becoming a designer was never an option in my head.

It wasn’t until I graduated high school and moved from my small town to Chicago to attend Columbia College that everything clicked for me.

I was originally studying film at Columbia with plans to become a music video director. While attending film classes I met my buddy, Chad Fellers, who also shared the same goals I had. We decided to get a head start on our career plans and began shooting (pretty terrible) music videos all over Chicago with any local artist that would hire us. We were charging $100 per video lol. Within our first semester, we transitioned from shooting videos for artists to booking shows for them. Our plan was to start throwing concerts just as a scheme to get closer to well-known artists so we could pitch our music video company to them. But we quickly discovered we could make a lot more throwing concerts, so our video hustle quickly died and we shifted gears into a concert promotions company. This became moderately successful quicker than we expected so, in the classic entrepreneurial spirit, we dropped out of college. We began throwing concerts in venues from Chicago to St. Louis and all of the college markets in between. During that time we were also touring across the country selling merch and road managing for various artists as well. It was a blast, and at this point I thought this was going to be my future and I was dead set on it.

Even though we were making money, and no longer had the lingering debt of school haunting us, you could still consider us “broke college kids” always looking for a way to pocket some extra cash. In an attempt to cut down on our expenses per concert, I decided to dust off my drawing skills I had packed away and attempt to create our own gig posters myself. I had obviously seen a great deal of gig posters at this point, but still had absolutely no idea how they were made or any understanding of the design world. All I knew was the posters I had seen from my time promoting and touring were much different from the impeccable logos and packaging that I was fascinated by as a kid in that most of them had more of a human element to their design. Creating our gig posters seemed more like something I could do.

I think I initially googled something ridiculous along the lines of “how to get your drawing onto a computer to make a poster.” But that naive question was enough to open the door to something great.
[Cue “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin soundtrack]
To say the least, I was dumbfounded and thrilled. I vividly recall exploring those links to different design blogs, watching tutorial videos, and most importantly my discovery of the Wacom tablet.

It didn’t take me long to download Adobe’s full set of design programs and dive into this newfound art that seemed to be hiding my whole life. I quickly fell in love with the creation of our show posters much more than the concert promotions and touring itself. I spent the next year teaching myself design through countless hours of YouTube tutorials, reading every design book I could get my hands on, and A LOT of practice.

Instead of continuing touring, I decided to put myself out there as a freelancer and solely focus on establishing myself as a designer. I utilized the connections I made with my concert promotions business to weasel my way into snatching different projects within the music industry. I began designing tour buses, album packaging, merchandise, and anything else I could get my hands on. That is how I ultimately ended up designing this featured album packaging for RiFF RAFF.

I have now been on my own as full time designer/illustrator for roughly 5 years now.

How would you describe your approach to design and could you sum up your process?

Approach: It really depends on the client and the project. Just gotta feel it out. No matter what though, the design always starts on paper first.

Process #1: As soon as I am briefed on the project, the perfect concept instantly pops up in my head. I jot it down in my always-handy scratch pad, then I get to my work station and knock ‘er out right away, and it’s beautiful. I love it. The client loves it. The design gets immediately sent off to be posted, printed, pressed, wrapped, etc.

Process #2: As soon as I am briefed on the project, the perfect concept instantly pops up in my head. I jot it down in my always-handy scratch pad, then I get to my work station and realize the idea is garbage. After a few more failed attempts as the deadline approaches, in rolls a great deal of crippling anxiety and a lot of stress filled, shop pacing, paper crumbling, pencil breaking time followed by a last minute seemingly magical “Aha!” moment that saves the day.